The cultural budget of the government, however, traditionally lacks transparency, which renders international comparisons impossible without additional research. In fact, due to the dispersed nature of competences for culture, one cannot talk about one “cultural budget”. The budget section under the responsibility of the State Secretary for Culture contains aggregations like “public collections” (i.e. libraries, museums, archives directly supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources) to which considerable amounts are earmarked without specification or listing.
As another area of opacity, a quarter of the budget of the National Cultural Fund is at the discretion of the minister: the grants from this source are subsequently listed on the website of the Fund. The amount allocated via public calls of the Fund has stagnated at 7-8 billion HUF a year. The Fund, where the boards at least partly are still composed as “coalitions”, has lost its hegemonic role in cultural finances, with the emergence of several competitive financial sources: Petőfi Cultural Agency, MMA, and directly from the Ministry for Human Resources.
One more aspect that makes a full and clear overview difficult is the high proportion of finances outside the frame of the annual budget. In 2019, as much as a third of the cultural expenditure of the government took the form of ad hoc decrees.
A traditional feature of the Hungarian system of cultural finances is the contribution from the central budget to the “cultural tasks” of the local governments. This does not appear in the chapter on the Ministry for Human Capacities in the national budget but in a separate chapter named Assistance to Local Governments. In 2021, it was 35.0 billion HUF, and for 2022, 35.3 billion has been earmarked. Beyond subsidising targets like specific kinds of cultural instituitons, each local government receives general cultural normative assistance; the majority of municipalities nevertheless spend several times more on culture than the “per capita” central redistribution, which has a symbolic role only.
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